This section has been archived. For more current Reviews, head on over to our blog.
Shanghai DiaryCreators: Ursula Bacon
Shanghai Diary is the personal story of eleven- year- old Ursula Bacon and her family, set against the background of WW II and Nazi Germany. It is a story that speaks of privileged lives suddenly torn apart, of relocation from their homeland of Germany to wartime Shanghai, and how, individually and as a family, they found the inner resources to live the best life that they could.
We do not live in a vacuum, nor does this story. Bacon has woven a rich tapestry of memories reflecting not only her story, but that of her family, of those whose lives touched theirs, and whose lives they touched.
The atrocities of the war spoken of here did not surprise me. I am of an age where this was my parents war, making it close enough to me that it is, in a way, a part of my personal history. And yet - I was surprised to learn that Shanghai was a major relocation area for European Jewish refugees. I also did not realize that some Jewish people were allowed out of Germany "legally". Nor did I realize how difficult it was for them to immigrate to any other country - i.e. to get another country to accept them.
In the genteel words of this book, there is a great deal to be learned. We hear the stories of those Germans who helped, in whatever manner they could, their Jewish friends and neighbors. We see a bit of life as it was at the very beginning of the war years, and how easy it was to not act, to not believe that war was eminent, to want to hold on to the "good life". Then we see the middle story - the journey from Germany to Shanghai, and the hopes and fears of those being relocated, having no idea what the future holds for them. We see them being met by those who have already settled in Shanghai, those who will help them adjust to their new circumstances.
And what circumstances they are - abject poverty, disease, noxious waste ... and the presence of Nazi influence, followed by that of Japanese soldiers! Through the kindness of friends, their own determination and ingenuity, and the influence of an English-educated Buddhist monk, they survive for eight years, until the war is over and they can journey to the United States. Above all else, this is a story of "right living" ... of living up to ones ideals and principles, of making the best of ones circumstances, and of never losing faith. This is a book of gentle, educated words, that tells a story of unbelievable harshness and trial.
This very personal story has its place in today's world. Not to keep the war alive, but to show how adversity can be dealt with. It is a woman's book, at heart, and shows how women deal with life. It is a book to learn from.
Review by Bonnie Cehovet Crystal Gate: Magazine for the Metaphysical, Spiritual & Healing Communities